Album: John Stewart

California Bloodlines (Rev-ola)
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When he recorded this country-rock milestone in 1969, Stewart was already responsible for a couple of significant stitches in rock's rich tapestry, first as a member of The Kingston Trio and subsequently as writer of The Monkees' "Daydream Believer". It's hard to imagine his weatherbeaten baritone tackling that, but it's perfectly suited to the careworn odes of California Bloodlines, an album infused with yearning, memory and wanderlust in songs like "Some Lonesome Picker", the paean to childhood "The Pirates of Stone County Road", and "Never Goin' Back", which closes the album with Stewart reading out the musician credits as the band vamps along, as if at a show. Straddling the gulf between traditional country values and long-hair attitudes, it's a marvellous album that peaks with the extraordinary "Mother Country", a rose-tinted reminiscence of life in "the good old days", featuring a poignant account of an old-timer's swansong ride in the smalltown parade, days before his death. Bursting with patriotic pride, it's a song that stares irony in the face and forces it to back down.

Download this: 'Mother Country', 'Some Lonesome Picker', 'Never Goin' Back', 'The Pirates of Stone County Road'